Blog – International Pillow Fight Day, Hong Kong

China’s first official ‘International Pillow Fight Day’ was held on April 2nd, 2011. Synchronising with over 130 cities around the world via pillowfightday.com, several hundred people turned up to Statue Square in Central to beat each other silly with pillows (often in fancy dress).

Media compilation:

Media video coverage:

Press coverage:

Activism – 24-hr Anonymous Guerrilla Art Installation

This weekend, Christina and I smuggled a protest banner we’d used at the HK Stock Exchange into a government-sponsored art exhibition in Central. Our ‘re-contextualised guerrilla art installation’ was inspired by a 2005 Banksy stunt and Mark Wallinger’s 2007 recreation of Brian Haw’s anti-war placards at The Tate.

Last week, China Gold International (2099/ TSX: CGG) floated on the Hang Seng. Protests accompanied the Canada-based/China-owned company’s simultaneous HK$2.4 billion ($309 million) IPO on the Toronto exchange too. Since 2009, Tibetans near the GGI Gyama copper mine have protested water contamination, pollution and forced settlement of nomads. Two farmers, Sonam Rinchen and Thupten Yeshi were tortured and sentenced for up to 15 years in prison for demonstrating. Richen died as a result of repeated torture. More info here / our press release.

An 'unofficial' art installation at HK's annual 'Detour' festival, held at a disused prison.

Our peaceful Friday mini-demo attracted clothed and undercover officers, a paddywagon and a police cameraman – the police-to-protester ratio was about 10:1 (at excessive cost to the taxpayer, no doubt). We draped a banner across a busy road bridge and attempted to enter the Stock Exchange, but it wasn’t until we retrieved Tracey the mannequin (my most loyal housemate) and installed it as ‘artwork’ did it have a big impact. Appropriately, the exhibition venue was an old prison which closed in 2005…

Hong Kong – Mourning Sickness

9 days later, and the the front page of the SCMP has still not changed its tune. Below is a preview of my upcoming column for Time Out.

Mourning Sickness

In conclusion, Manila police lacked gear and training during August’s hostage crisis. Any further media commentary or sensational analysis which went beyond this simple statement was redundant, unnecessary and arguably dangerous.

Voyeuristic tabloids splashing a bloody corpse on their cover, cynical companies advertising their ‘condolences’ (complete with prominent logos) and opportunistic, diversion-hungry politicians were all beneficiaries of the media circus surrounding the bus hijacking. This hyper-attentive, intrusive press coverage – often dubbed ‘grief porn’ – was also seen during events such as Princess Diana’s death, Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and the murder of Anna Svidersky in Vancouver.

Prompted by similar gratuitous and emotive reporting, HK subsequently experienced a phenomenon known as ‘mourning sickness’ where readers became actors and the entire populace indulged in mass grief and mourning. But this unified outpouring of sorrow and anger was mostly related to our own emotional needs rather than any real empathy with the victims, whom most of us had never met.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #32

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Capping Greed

Japan is one of the world’s most equal societies partly because large salaries are seen to be somewhat uncouth. The average Japanese CEO earns just over HK$3million – which is relatively low compared to their US counterparts who often earn between HK$8-30million annually. Toyota’s board members received a comparatively modest HK$3.4million last year whilst, say, HSBC’s chief enjoys a rather gratuitous basic wage of HK$13.5million.

Executive pay in HK remains the highest in Asia, surpassed only by South Korea, and there is certainly little taboo locally over amassing big bucks. The new watered-down minimum wage bill may help curb inequality – our city’s biggest social problem – but since we lack a ‘cultural cap’ on excessive earnings, further legislation is the next natural step to control executive greed.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #31

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Sharpened Elbows

When ‘scuffles’ break out on protest frontlines, it’s often difficult to tell whether it is provoked by frustrated activists or the police themselves. If it’s a high profile demonstration, protesters will sometimes find themselves outnumbered by police, undercover goons and a gaggle of photojournalists with sharp elbows. The latter are already somewhat notorious in the territory for snapping away at bloody accident scenes and, with many prepared to literally fight for the most sensational protest shots, their integrity remains in question.

Clement So, Director of Journalism at The Chinese University, says photojournalists getting “too involved” has always been an issue, since “HK reporters are aggressive and try to beat competition.” He agrees there are some bad apples but says that that should not render the whole journalistic community as subjective or taking sides. Despite this, I’ve had quite a few run-ins myself with forceful photographers who can be blamed for obstructing protesters and causing things to escalate.